Twenty students from St Catherine, who started secondary school in October, have benefited from much-needed support from the Poverty Alleviation and Empowerment Foundation (PAEF).
The organisation recently handed over scholarships totalling $400,000, along with care packages, to the students, who are graduates of five primary schools in the parish. Each student received $20,000.
Administration director of the PAEF, Pauline Gregory-Lewis, said the support was in response to requests on behalf of parents who are facing financial challenges due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We knew of the extent of the needs and that a lot of parents lost their jobs during this COVID-19 crisis, and we had to respond with the support of our donors,” she said.
Gregory-Lewis noted that the funds provided can go towards school fees and purchasing books and data for online classes.
Principal of the McAuley Primary School, Claudia Dyer, said she is “forever grateful” to the foundation, which responded in a timely manner to a request to help parents of former students who are “struggling financially”.
She noted that through the support, one student, who performed outstandingly in the Primary Exit Profile, has been able “to go to the traditional high school in which he was placed”.
Parent Georgia Bryce said the $20,000 she received towards her son’s schooling “was a big help. We really appreciate it. I pray that you continue to help persons like me”.
Another parent, Virginia Ewers, said that the help for her son came at a “needed time”.
“It was like Christmas came or like I get a billion dollars. I want them to continue and my son to continue with what he is doing and try his best,” she noted.
The PAEF provides scholarships to new high school students in St Catherine and supports a breakfast programme to supplement what is provided by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.
The organisation also assists students who maintain an acceptable grade average throughout high school.
In the first year of operation in 2015, the PAEF supported four students. In 2016, the number was increased to nine beneficiaries, extending to 20 students in 2017; 21 in 2018; and in 2019, 31 students were awarded scholarships worth $620,000 by the foundation.